Nationally-televised finals feature historic 300 game by Sean Rash
Australian two-handed player Jason Belmonte continued his astonishing run in Professional Bowlers Association major champions Sunday, successfully defending his title in the 50th anniversary Barbasol Professional Bowlers Association Tournament of Champions with a 232-214 victory over top qualifier Rhino Page of Orlando, Fla., at Woodland Bowl for his fifth major title in the past three years.
Belmonte, the No. 2 qualifier, struck on seven of his first eight shots to lock up his victory over Page, who failed to double until the eighth and ninth frames. In addition to winning his 12th career title, Belmonte earned his second $50,000 check in two weeks. Last Sunday, he made bowling history by winning the United States Bowling Congress Masters, also a major championship, for a record third consecutive time.
Over the past four seasons, Belmonte has advanced to the television finals in 10 of 12 PBA major championships, winning five of them.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m going to stay on the ride as long as I can,” Belmonte said. “I can’t believe it myself. The ball is striking and I’m throwing great shots.”
The 31-year-old Australian, already a leading contender for a third consecutive PBA Player of the Year award, started slowly in his semifinal match against Sean Rash of Montgomery, Ill., who also made history by throwing the PBA’s 25th nationally-televised 300 game in defeating Ryan Ciminelli, 300-214, in the second match of the day.
Belmonte fell behind in his match against Rash, striking once in the first five frames. But he made a key ball change and threw six strikes in a row to end Rash’s title bid, 235-203. Rash’s critical error was leaving a 2-8-10 split in the eighth frame, which he was unable to convert.
“I made the ball change to a more aggressive surface and once I saw it go through the pins, I knew it was the right ball,” Belmonte said. “I knew Sean was capable of striking a lot, so I didn’t want to come out of this tournament saying I wish I had made the change. Sometimes you’re put into a position where it’s all or nothing, and that kind of brings the best out of people.”
Against Ciminelli, Rash became the first player to bowl to two nationally-televised 300 games in PBA Tour competition. It was only the second 300 game ever in the TOC finals and the first since Jack Biondollilo bowled the first nationally-televised perfect game in PBA history in the 1967 finals at the TOC’s long-time former home, Riveria Lanes in Fairlawn, Ohio. Rash bowled his first televised 300 game in the Wolf Open in Shawnee, Okla., in 2014.
Rash won the opening match, starting with four strikes and taking advantage of Scott Norton’s pin carry problems to eliminate the Mission Viejo, Calif., left-hander, 237-215.
The PBA on ESPN continues next Sunday with the finals of the PBA Players Championship at 1 p.m. ET. The finalists, determined during a qualifying event earlier in the month in Milwaukee, will be top qualifier Parker Bohn III of Jackson, N.J., a PBA Hall of Famer and 33-time title winner; two-time PBA Tour titlist Ronnie Russell, Marion, Ind.; Belmonte; PBA Hall of Famer and 37-time winner Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., and one-time titlist Tom Daugherty, Tampa, Fla.
50TH ANNIVERSARY BARBASOL PBA TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
Woodland Bowl, Indianapolis, Feb. 15
Final Standings: 1, Jason Belmonte, Australia, $50,000. 2, Rhino Page, Orlando, Fla., $25,000. 3, Sean Rash, Montgomery, Ill., $13,000. 4, Ryan Ciminelli, Cheektowaga, N.Y., $11,000. 5, Scott Norton, Mission Viejo, Calif., $10,000.
Stepladder Results: Match One – Rash def. Norton, 237-215. Match Two – Rash def. Ciminelli, 300-214. Semifinal Match – Belmonte def. Rash, 235-203. Championship – Belmonte def. Page, 232-214.